Week 7: Rules

Questions about methods of student recruitment

New lessons about giving philosophical talks?

More on emotional rationality

1. How have emotions spurred philosophical reflections? E.g. wonder, perplexity, passion, anger, fear, despair, guilt.

2. How do emotions initiate various kinds of inference, e.g. abductive (causal) inference initiated by surprise?

Practical rules

Moral rules, e.g. 10 commandments.

Prudential rules, e.g. look before you leap.

Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Truman: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Theoretical rules

Rules of inference, e.g. modus ponens, inference to the best explanation.

Osler's law: The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism.

Sagan's standard: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Rules and rationality

Three positions:

1. Following a rule cannot make an action rational, because the action is only rational if it is the best choice overall, independent of rules.

2. Compatibilist: rules can be useful in picking the best choice overall.

3. Revisionist: justify rules, then use these to justify actions.

Another possibility: case-based (analogical) reasoning without rules.

What to do when rules conflict?

Discussion Questions for Week 8

  1. What is weakness of will (akrasia)? Do you know anybody in whom it does not occur.
  2. Why do some philosophers think that weakness of will is impossible? Why is it possible and actual?
  3. How does weakness of will produce irrationality? How can people overcome it to act more rationality?
  4. What are the sources of motivationally biased beliefs?
  5. Is there really a paradox of irrationality as Davidson suggests?
  6. Which of the paradoxes described by Sorenson are serious challenges to rationality, and which are just cute tricks?
  7. Are people consistent? Should they be?

PHIL 680

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Oct. 24, 2005.